Winter is fantastic if your feet are warm! We picked through over 80 of the best women's winter boots and chose 12 to test and review side-by-side. We've evaluated how these boots perform from the city to the mountains to the Arctic. During testing, we plowed through wet and heavy snow, punched down through powder, slid around icy driveways and even traipsed through cold mountain streams. Throughout these adventures, we evaluated these boots based on their warmth and weather protection, comfort and coziness, traction, and style. We also paid attention to how easy they are to put on in the morning and pull off at the end of the day. This information helped us hand out awards to top performers and give shout-outs to niche options. We hope our unbiased review will help you stay warm through the darkest and coldest parts of winter. We also have a full winter boot review for men.
The Best Women's Winter Boots of 2018
Winter is ramping up, and a great performing winter boot is the key to happy feet! In this fully updated review, we look at options that range from winter hikers to around-town boots. After extensive testing, we decided that the Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated Waterproof boot deserves our Editor's Choice award for active days. The North Face Shellista II Mid remains a second Editors' Choice for everyday wear. We also introduce budget-friendly contenders like the Columbia Ice Maiden II, a new Best Buy, and boots that shine at a particular task, like the Top Pick for Traction, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat.
The Best Active Winter Boot for Women
Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated Waterproof
In search of a true winter hiking boot that performs well on trails and keeps your toes warm? The Oboz Bridger 7" BDry Insulated Waterproof boot is an exceptional choice. It's our favorite for its high-quality weather performance, supportive footbed, and super cozy wool collar. Complete with snowshoe and gaiter compatibility, this 7-inch winter hiking boot features burly traction for your snowy, steep adventures and the best warmth rating of any winter hiking boot.
For those heading into the deepest drifts, it may not be the best boot due to the short shaft, especially at the back of the boot. Otherwise, you will love them on your next cold-weather adventure in the backcountry!
Read review: Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated Waterproof
The Best Everyday Winter Boot for Women
The North Face Shellista II Mid
The North Face Shellista II Mid is perfect for conquering winter sidewalks and gentle trails. This stylish winter boot is versatile and wins an Editors' Choice award for the third year in a row! Boasting great weather protection and reasonable traction, it will keep you on your feet when the roads get slick. The nubuck leather shaft and rubberized outsole are waterproof, providing excellent protection.
The outsole sticks to slippery surfaces with temperature-sensitive lugs but reaches its limit on icy sidewalks (like all our contenders). The interior is roomy and toasty, providing exceptional all-day comfort. For a reasonable price of $140, this winter boot is one of our favorites. Wear it around town or on a light trail hike. If you're looking for a versatile winter boot this winter, the North Face Shellista II Mid is one of our faves!
Read review: North Face Shellista II Mid
Best Bang for the Buck
Columbia Ice Maiden II
When it comes to combining comfort and affordability, the Columbia Ice Maiden II is the hands-down winner. We are surprised that such an inexpensive boot performs so well in messy conditions! What do we love? First, the cozy liner provides ample warmth all day. Second, these boots are completely waterproof. Third, this boot has decent traction for light winter hiking.
What didn't we like? It's not the most supportive boot or the most stylish. That said, it's a functional boot for winter chores and for taking the dogs out on a mellow trail. If you are looking for a warm, multi-purpose snow boot, the Ice Maiden is an unbelievable deal for just $80!
Read review: Columbia Ice Maiden II
Top Pick for Traction
Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat - Women's
With Michelin Winter Compound Rubber and a nice wide sole, the Columbia Bugaboot crushed all other boots we tested in the traction test. AND it performed well on trails and snow as well. This Top Pick for Traction is perfect for tackling slippery and steep trails, walking the dog, or wearing anytime you want the stickiest rubber on your feet.
It isn't the most attractive boot, even in the style-challenged winter hiking category. It isn't the warmest either. But our testers appreciated the roomy fit and the low price. So if aesthetics are not your number one concern, but keeping the rubber side down is, we recommend the Bugaboot as our Top Pick for traction.Read review: Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat - Women's
Men's review: Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat
Top Pick for Severe Weather
Sorel Joan of Arctic
Seeking a boot that will keep your feet happy when the weather turns? The super cute Sorel Joan of Arctic is an ultra-durable and weatherproof winter boot that kept us warm in double negative digit temperatures! This boot is perfect for any women living in very cold climates and needs a boot to wear around town or perform winter chores during frigid weather. While we love that its weather protection keeps us protected in 13-inch snow banks, we didn't love how heavy and clunky this boot feels. The 6-mm liner is cozy and removable while the traction pattern is great for travel over snow.
Keep in mind that the outsole is lug-less and doesn't perform so well on steep wintery slopes. It's perfect for wearing around town, but it's not our first choice for hiking all day long. Overall, we love the Joan of Arctic for its exceptional performance in bad weather.
Read review: Sorel Joan of Arctic
Top Pick for Winter Chores
Sorel Caribou - Women's
With a burly outsole and protective waterproof upper, the Sorel Caribou is one of the most protective boots tested in this review. The removable 9-mm felt liner, and thick sole keep it warm when temperatures drop deep into the double negatives. This Top Pick for Winter Chores is perfect for shoveling snow, walking the dog, or chopping firewood in cold, nasty weather.
Dubbed a workhorse Pac boot, it's not super stylish or particularly comfortable for all-day wear because it is heavy and bulky. As a result, it's not our favorite for winter hiking of all-day comfort, but it's perfect to wear around town or while tackling your chores in the coldest of weather.Read review: Sorel Caribou - Women's
Men's review: Sorel Caribou
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you love the crisp cold days of winter or you're already counting down the days until spring, proper footwear will help you enjoy all the season has to offer. For us, winter means walking around town, standing around bonfires, skiing, fat biking, ice climbing, snowshoeing, and a host of other cold weather activities. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that having the right gear for the job makes all the difference.
While proper footwear is critical for technical activities, it's just as important for everyday life. We hiked on cold winter days that reached temperatures below zero and walked the dogs each day on packed snowy roads and trails. We tested boots in snow and rain storms, and we wore them out to dinner on chilly evenings. We even walked around in creeks and lakes to determine their performance in the nastiest conditions. Some of these boots gave us a whole new love of winter. Others left our toes a little numb.
To compare these boots, we rated each on six key metrics: warmth, weather protection, comfort & fit, ease of use, traction, and style. Keep in mind what you're looking for in a great winter boot. Then use our award winners and editors' picks to help you find what's best for you. Head over to our Buying Advice article for more in-depth advice.
Something that we don't score for, but do take into account when assigning awards, is the value of each boot. We test the best products available, sometimes those are also the most expensive, which may not work for you. So we evaluate budget options as well.
Our best buy option, the Columbia Ice Maiden II, is an excellent choice to keep you warm this winter, especially if you live in a moderate climate. It did well in most metrics and is a relative bargain. If your main ambition is to get outside and adventure this winter, however, it might make more economic sense to buy a shoe that can keep you warm and perform well on the trail, like the Oboz Bridger, which was our favorite winter hiking boot. It may not be the most stylish for everyday wear, but you can wear it while you do your winter chores, commute to work, and get out into the backcountry.
It's not surprising that warmth is one of the most important criteria in our winter boot evaluation. Ideally, winter boots should keep your feet warm whether you're just standing around in the cold or actively moving, as activity creates heat. To test warmth we took each model out in the early morning cold. We wore different boots on each foot to determine which lost warmth faster in the real world. We even wore each boot in an alpine lake, stomping around for at least ten minutes to note which fought off the frigid waters the best.
We also added a new test for this update. We settled the new test fleet and old favorites into an ice bath and measured how much the inside temperature dropped over the course of 20 minutes. The Oboz Bridger won this test, losing only 14.7 degrees in 20 minutes. The Keen Durand Polar was a close second at 16.3 degrees, followed by the Columbia Ice Maiden (21.5 degrees), the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV (21.5 degrees), and The North Face Shellista (24.8 degrees).
After all that, we've learned that a few key factors contribute to the overall warmth of a boot. The warmest boots have thicker outsoles, taller shafts, more or higher-quality insulation, and some form of breathability to prevent feet from soaking in sweat. Also, warmer boots feature insulation in the boot's footbed, keeping tootsies super toasty.The Sorel Caribou has the thickest sole tested and is one of the warmest boats for just standing around in the cold. As a result, it's an excellent option for those working a ski lift or working outside all day long. The Sorel Joan of Arctic also has a thick sole underfoot, but it didn't insulate as well as the Sorel Caribou. That said, both are still great options for standing around in the cold.
As you'd expect, boots with more insulation are typically warmer. That said, all insulation is not created equal. The Oboz Bridger features 200-grams of 3M Thinsulate, and it easily feels as warm as the Keen Durand Polar, which has 400 grams of insulation. Both are very warm winter hiking boots!
Boots with a super tall shaft, like the 13.5-inch high Joan of Arctic, insulate along the length of leg, generating more heat. Other taller boots include the North Face Shellista II Mid (10.5 inches), and the Sorel Tofino (12 inches). Tall boots are also much better for tackling tall snow banks.
Other boots like the North Face Shellista II have only 200-grams of insulation aren't nearly as warm as the Oboz Bridger or the Sorel Caribou. These boots kept our feet warm into the zero and single negative digits but didn't perform as well as models with a thicker sole or less breathable overlays.
Depending on where you live and how you're planning to use your boots, you may have very different warmth requirements. For example, women enduring the long winters of Minnesota should consider super warm models like the Sorel Joan of Arctic, Sorel Caribou, Oboz Bridger, or Keen Durand Polar. While women who live in regions with milder winters can get away with pieces like the Columbia Ice Maiden II. Additionally, if you'll only use your boots to dash from the parking lot into your office building, then you may be willing to sacrifice warmth for style on a product like the Sorel Tofino II.
Winter weather can bring the dreaded wintery mix of snow, slush, and ice. With the proper footwear, your feet (and pants) can stay protected when you are out and about in nasty weather. We hiked through tall snowbanks to see which boots provided the best protection, so boot height affected the scores. In these situations, a boot with a faux fur collar typically does better than those without. We also evaluated each boot's ability to remain waterproof in wet, winter conditions. To do this, we hiked to an alpine lake and stood in the water in each pair of boots for 10 minutes (or until they leaked, whichever came first). Boots that failed typically failed at a seam.
Keep in mind that every product has a distinct flood level whether that's a poorly sealed seam or the top of the tongue, that lets water pour into the boot. Find a more detailed overview of each boot's performance in the individual reviews.
Looking for the best in weather protection? Both the Sorel Caribou and Sorel Joan of Arctic performed at the top of its metric. While the Sorel Caribou is a little beefier and offers thicker insulation, the Sorel Joan of Arctic, our Top Pick for Severe Weather, features the tallest shaft height tested and a protective faux fur collar.
Both boots did great in our water tests. The Caribou's waterproof overlays make it waterproof all the way to the collar of the boot, at about 10.5-inches. In comparison, the Joan of Arctic delivers water protection up to just 10 inches of the 13.5-inch boot height. Both are excellent choices for the nastiest weather. The most significant difference is that the Sorel Joan of Arctic is lighter, taller, and cuter than the Sorel Caribou. So it earns Top Pick for Severe Weather while the Sorel Caribou is the Top Pick for Winter Chores.
If you seek a highly protective winter hiking boot, the Keen Durand Polar and the Oboz Bridger 7" Insulated provide bomber weather protection. Both feature leather overlays with a breathable waterproof membrane. Of the two boots, the Oboz is shorter, and the Keen's taller shaft provides more water protection in deeper puddles. Both are great options for hiking in wet and snowy weather.
Another great boot that is cuter than both Sorel options discussed above is the Sorel Tofino II. It left our feet bone dry after submerging in puddle depths of 8.5 inches and protects against snow drifts of 10.25 inches high with a faux fur lining to keep the snow out. The North Face Shellista Mid IIprotects in puddles up to 7 inches, and snow drifts up to 10 inches, and doesn't have the faux fur collar, but instead features a knit back and leather shaft.
Comfort & Fit
While cold weather can be brutal on your feet, a comfy winter boot can make your day. To evaluate comfort, we examined each boot's liner, footbed, and weight and judged how cozy the interior materials are to wear all day. To judge fit, we considered each boots' volume and how precisely we could snug it down around our feet and ankles. We also considered whether most folks would need to size up or down for each boot. Then e went online and compared our findings to what other wearers experienced.
The Editors' Choice winning North Face Shellista Mid features tall, soft to the touch, nubuck leather outer. Its liner is cozy and smooth, making it comfortable for all-day wear. Also, the footbed platform is plush, much like a memory foam mattress. We loved this additional support. It's also a lot lighter than the faux-fur collared Sorel Joan of Arctic.
Of the winter hiking boots we tested, the Oboz Bridger Insulated WP is the most comfortable by far. The Oboz features a wool topped collar and a sculpted footbed for excellent arch support. There are no pressure points anywhere on our feet, and we have plenty of room for our toes to move. The Columbia Bugaboot IV is also a great hiking option that offers a supportive footbed, though it's not as good as the Oboz. It's an excellent choice for those who prefer less arch support or who like to wear a thicker sock.
Fit is a subjective metric. But after wearing the boots, handing them off to friends, and reading online user reviews, we have some thoughts on the subject. The biggest differences arise from a given boot's intended use. Active winter boots will provide a more supportive fit than bigger and burlier boots, which are comparatively loose and a little sloppy. We break it down below.
Winter Hiking Boots
The fit of an active winter hiking boot is more important than more casual winter boot categories. While you can lace all the hikers we tested tight enough to get a precision fit, there are differences. The Keen Durand Polar has the lowest volume toe box of all the boots tested. This makes it a potential choice for those with a narrow or low-volume foot. Our testers with wider or higher-volume feet, or those looking for wiggle room, opted for either the Oboz Bridger Insulated or Columbia Bugaboot IV, both of which have more space in the forefoot. If you need arch support, both the Durand Polar and the Bridger have you covered.
All three of these boots have a snug heel that didn't slip while on the trail. The Columbia Bugaboot IV provides the most versatile fit, with a roomy toe box and less sculpted footbed. The Oboz delivers a little less space than the Columbia but will work for those looking for a medium or narrower fit. In general, the fit on all three boots is precise and offers optimal stability for travel over winter trails.
Winter Boots Around Town
Narrow Fit: While most boots can be made to work with a narrow foot, these are our top recommendations. They provide a precise fit and allow you to cinch down the boot.
Our recommendations: Columbia Ice Maiden II (Best Buy), Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat (need to size up a half size).Roomy Fit: A boot with a roomy fit is best for those with medium to wide feet, or for those looking to wear thicker socks.
Our recommendations: The North Face Shellista II Mid (Editors' Choice), Sorel Tofino II (Super cute!), Keen Elsa (you may need to size up a half size, as some testers found it short)
Sloppy or Big Fit: These boots have a bulky or sloppy fit that will do well with any size foot if you aren't planning to walk too much.
Our recommendations: Sorel Joan of Arctic (Top Pick for Severe Weather), Sorel Caribou (Top Pick for Winter Chores), Kamik Momentum
Ease of Use
It's that moment when you're finally out of the cold, and you're so ready to be in your house slippers. Your boots are wet and snowy, your hands are cold, but you can't seem to kick them off. The feeling is similar when you're trying to get out the door quickly. It's just inconvenient to have shoes that are hard to take on and off. This metric is not weighted very heavily, but some boots are so simple to slip out of, and others are such a pain, that we wanted to tell you about it.
First, we looked at each lacing system and tested whether you need to spend extra minutes lacing and unlacing the boot. (An important factor is whether or not you can lace up a boot with a simple pull, or if you have to tighten the laces all the way up the shaft manually.) Then we practiced pulling each boot on and taking it off again. Boots with a rigid shaft and wider neck are easier to wrangle. Boots that scored the highest are easy to take on and off and featured either lace-less or a single-pull lacing system.
The Sorel Caribou, Joan of Arctic, and Tofino II all have a rigid upper that doesn't bend or twist when you step into the boot. While their laces are more labor intensive than a slip-on option would be, they tighten well with one pull, making it easy to get out the door and on with your day.
Of the hiking boots tested, Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV is the easiest to use. Its wide collar opening makes it easier to slide your foot into and out of the boot. Plus, all of the eyelets are closed loops, so no need to unhook the laces.
While we love the North Face Shellista II Mid for its great coziness, performance, and versatility, we aren't too impressed with its lacing system. With nine sets of eyelets and cotton laces (nylon laces move more easily through the eyelets), the Shellista II is the slowest to put on and take off. Unlike the Columbia Heavenly Omni-Heat that requires just one pull of the lace to tighten throughout the shaft of the boot, the Shellista requires a manual lace-up, earning it a lower score in this metric.
If you want to stay on your feet through winter, a bomber outsole is key. We studied each model's outsole by measuring the depth of the tread and noting the pattern. We also created an icy ramp and walked up and down it. We also did some slip-sliding across an icy driveway. In addition to these objective tests, we skated around on ice patches, hiked around town, and got out into the nasty stuff to determine which boots stuck, and which ones didn't. In the end, we learned that those with the largest lugs and surface area did best on technical terrain while flatter soles work best on deep snow.
While all the boots tested provide traction, some are better than others. If you plan on being out in deep snow throughout the winter, a sole with a lot of surface area like the Sorel Joan or Arctic or Sorel Tofino II is a great option. Similar to a snowshoe, it floats on top of the surface, without the necessity for deep lugs. The outsole has a wave pattern that provides some traction, but the lug-less design is not ideal for steep snow slopes.
If you plan to get on steep trails this winter, we highly recommend a boot with lugs. For that, an active winter hiking boot is your best bet, and the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV provides the best traction in the test. Its lugs are wide, and the Michelin Winter Compound rubber stays soft and grippy in cold conditions.
The Oboz Bridger also provides excellent traction, with the deepest and most aggressive tread we tested. The lug rubber is soft, so it is awesomely grippy on rocks. If you're looking for more stylish boots that also have decent traction patterns, The North Face Shellista II Mid and the Columbia Ice Maiden II are both great options. Both feature a softer rubber and wider lug pattern that grips to slippery rocks and packed snow. All are great options for winter chores and light hiking.
On cold or wet winter days, you may have your boots on all day long, so you will probably want them to match your style. Style is a very personal thing, so we took a poll. We asked over twenty women for their opinions and noted any compliments received while out and about. Faux-fur is the most polarizing feature. Some love it, while others think it's ridiculous. (Sidenote: We find it very handy to keep warmth in and snow out.)
Keep your wardrobe, activities, and interests in mind while considering style. Here we outline some differences between the boots and their versatility with different types of pants, leggings, and other winter wear.
These boots range from the techy winter hiking boots like the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV to those with faux fur collars like the Sorel Joan of Arctic. We also tested boots with a low profile like the Keen Elsa, a favorite for everyday wear. Through all the variety, however, we noted some patterns and trends emerging.
One question: Do you like faux fur? There are many boots with a faux-fur collar of varying lengths that some of our testers love while others preferred not to wear. While these boots are great at keeping out blowing snow and have a wintery style, they typically can't be worn underneath pants. They work best with a pair of skinny jeans or tights. Boots like the Sorel Joan or Arctic or the super cute Sorel Tofino II are a perfect example of faux-fur boots.
If you don't love faux fur, consider the North Face Shellista II Mid, one of our Editors' Choice winners. This boot features a wingtip outsole, a tall knit collar, and a leather shaft. It's an excellent option for those looking for a clean, streamlined look.
The Keen Elsa is also quite stylish. It features a shaft height of just 8 inches and received a plethora of compliments on the street for its colorful upper and fun design. This is also an all-day favorite.
Do you have cold weather in your future? A high-performing winter boot will keep you warm and protected through the worst weather winter brings. Be sure to make your choice wisely and find the best women's winter boot for you this season!
— Amber King and Laurel Hunter